At the TUC’s annual conference, union delegates have backed joint industrial action if “attacks” on jobs, pensions and public services go ahead. The gathering backed a motion which included calls to build “a broad solidarity alliance of unions and communities under threat”.
However, we will not see “hundreds of thousands of workers take to the streets” under the TUC’s leadership.
The fact that trade unionists had to stage a protest outside the conference “lobbying” the TUC to call a national demonstration says it all. We need to be taking the initiative on the streets, not begging for piecemeal protests to be authorised from above.
The TUC and the unions under its banner are essentially massive bureaucracies which mirror corporate structures. At a rank-and-file level, there are a lot of committed and extremely effective activists, but the people at the top are long-detatched from the realities of life as a worker, the bureaucrats are unelected, and decision making is done from the top-down.
Union officials will refuse to fund unlawful solidarity or wildcat actions, and use official backing and strike pay to turn action on and off like a tap. With funding and resources centralised, they will hang workers out to dry rather than violate repressive and unjust labour laws.
As part of that system and those structures, all the mainstream unions, are constrained.
Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ (RMT) leader Bob Crow has called for a campaign of “civil disobedience.” However, whether Crow – or the other union leaders who backed his words – can do anything which will have a lasting impact is questionable at best.
He is right that waving banners and placards will not be enough. It will take direct action to defeat the cuts agenda. But he has shown no sign that he has anything to offer but bluff and bluster.
In the face of which, workers need to take matters into our own hands.
Where officials deny action, mass meetings should force it. When bureaucrats cut off strike funds, local whip-rounds and benefit events should replenish them. And if full-timers concede to management or government to bring an action to an end, the rank-and-file should ignore them.
Most importantly, actions that are legal, such as one-day strikes, should be overridden by those that are effective – occupations, wildcat and indefinite strikes, sabotage, etc.
If Bob Crow really wants “direct action” and “general and co-ordinated strike action,” then he should lead by example.
Give up your perks and boss-sized pay packet, Bob, and come agitate at ground level with the anarcho-syndicalists.
The Liverpool Solidarity Federation will be arguing for exactly this approach at the protest against the Lib Dem conference this Sunday. Join us by the Anglican Cathedral at 11.30 am, and add your voice to the Radical Workers’ Bloc!